Technology Holds a Great Promise of Transforming the Gig Economy

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  • Technology Holds a Great Promise of Transforming the Gig Economy

Dinesh Ramamurthi, CHRO, OYO Hotels and Homes sheds light on how the gig economy is shaping the organisational structure and some of the ways organisations can optimize work by leveraging the gig economy.

According to PayPal’s ‘India Freelancer Report’, there are currently 10 million freelancers in India. Most of the freelancers reported in the study work on web and mobile development, web designing, internet research, and data entry, indicating clearly that Indian freelancers are likely to engage in technology-enabled IT work. The report also clearly states that most of the work for Indian freelancers is coming from outside India from countries like the USA, UK, and Australia. 23% of the freelancers earn INR 60 Lakhs per year with most of the freelancer work coming from the USA, UK, Australia.

The “gig” economy is thus on its way to becoming a “big” economy.

How is the gig economy shaping the organisational structure? 

We are entering the age of the fourth industrial revolution and as the use of technology becomes ubiquitous, the traditional form of employment is also undergoing a massive change. The new-age start-ups and changed entrepreneurship fundamentals are aiding the rapid growth of the gig economy. Increasingly companies are looking to hire independent contractors and freelancers primarily for technology-based profiles as against full-time employees.

Flexible and temporary jobs have partially subverted the traditional economy of full-time workers who believe in the concept of a secure and stable career path.

Today, while choosing a perfect job, millennials in India lean towards job satisfaction, as compared to any other parameter. Decisively, factors that are playing a vital role in giving a boost to the gig economy to a great extent are – career mobility, hyper-connectivity, and flexible work dynamics.

The inherent characteristics of the gig economy allow a large number of people to work part-time or have temporary but significant positions. For those willing to utilize the benefits, the gig economy allows people to choose what they want to do and on their own terms, both in intra and inter organisations. Essentially, it allows people to enjoy more freedom and flexibility and brings along the ability to leverage unique and time-bound skills for the organisations, by deploying talent that is available across the world.

The aspirations of the workforce are also changing given the different perspective of millennials. For example – the trend of ‘Asset Lite Generation’ is on the rise. Unlike the traditional way, they like to test, try and compare what fits the bill. In the age of compressed learning, people tend to acquire multiple talents, and therefore have the luxury to further experiment with their career instead of following a set trajectory. Having multiple skills help them enjoy flexibility in the work they want to do, to the extent of choosing multiple projects at the same time.

Additionally, technology has become a significant enabler of the gig economy. Big data and AI hold a great promise of transforming the gig economy even further, resulting in better experiences for both sides. For example, at OYO, we believe that great talent should be spread across different areas, and should not be restricted to a permanent location. Hence, we have a healthy mix of both permanent and contractual based employees right from the frontline staff to transformation teams to consultants for the payroll department and independent contractors for special projects.

Also, we have tried to integrate the essential characteristics of the gig economy into our full-time workforce, such as flexibility, mobility and no restricted working hours, to name a few. This not only allows both, gig economy workers as well as our full-time employees to sync and feel alike but also ensure high-level efficiency of the workforce.

According to World Bank report, ‘Jobless growth’, published in April 2018, India would need 8 million jobs every year to keep the employment rate constant. With an estimated 56% employment rate in India generated via gig work and an estimated growth rate of 25-30 % per annum, gig workers could help fill the gap in the market for junior and mid- senior level roles.

What are some of the cultural challenges associated with an extended workforce? How can organisations overcome these challenges to ensure gig workers assimilate with the organisational culture? 

With the rise of the gig economy, there are numerous ways in which professionals can explore its benefits. Simultaneously, it is an equally attractive labour arrangement for companies to have budgeted workforce. Having said that, while more and more organisations enjoy the benefits, it brings along some implications as well.

From an organisation’s perspective, the challenges centre mainly on retaining the corporate culture and worker engagement. Working on a contingency basis may impact worker attitudes, especially relating to their commitment to the long term needs of the company. To address this concern, companies, more specifically, the leadership needs to demonstrate a commitment to all workers, whether employees or gig workers. When all workers are supported, they are more likely to be committed to company goals and even act as ambassadors after they move on. Companies can go a long way towards helping this mind-set by providing environments that encourage all workers in the gig economy to feel alike.

Another aspect is understanding the mobile lifestyle of gig workers. Organisations might not have full visibility on the mobile lifestyle of gig workers as opposed to corporate employees, which might lead to questions on accountability. Here, technology plays a significant role in overcoming this challenge. Organisations can support gig economy workers by providing technology that helps them stay connected and efficient. Additionally, moving towards agile workspaces (that accommodate more people with less space) will help contingent workers to spend more time in the office. Agile workspaces also serve to accommodate a greater range of daily fluctuation in worker attendance.

Lastly, collaboration in the gig economy can be more challenging when teams are in flux, and people are not familiar with each other completely. It becomes imperative for companies to provide enough collaborative spaces for teams to network and interact with each other. It’s also essential to offer perks and features that make people want to come into the office, such as gyms and coffee lounges. Companies must provide office design and technology to employees that help people get more work done, like quiet phone booths, smart whiteboards, and comfortable team huddle areas.

While numerous other factors can help organisations stand out within our rapidly evolving world of work, companies that focus on inclusive workplace culture and place a high priority on employee engagement will often attract and retain the best talent and reap the benefits of the gig economy.

What are some of the ways organisations can optimize work by leveraging the gig economy? 

Organisations of all sizes are turning the gig economy into a global phenomenon. The current trend in workforce shift can be attributed to advancements in technology stitched with the changing demographic preferences. The combination of these two in the present age has led the modern-day workforce to demand work that is mobile and seeks employment in a more project-based mode.

The gig economy can help provide employees during surge times, and most importantly if any organisation grows at 10X rates like OYO, gig can help bring in experience and skill sets quickly.

Consequently, this changing context calls for a new style of leadership that can get the best out of a broader set of relationships, more distributed talent resources, and more complex career progressions.

Distributed leadership: 

Essentially, it is imperative to integrate distributed leadership with the concept of the gig economy, where employees, whether full time or freelancers, are able to work independently and make decisions on their own. This will enable them to think of themselves as a core part of the organisation, which will further help them bring high-levels of accountability to their jobs. The system of “distributed leadership” will encourage them to think and work from a different perspective altogether. It continuously helps consultations and consensus over command and control.

Finding a balance between the gig workers and the employees on the payroll:

In today’s dynamic market, hiring and retaining high quality gig economy talent is backbreaking. Furthermore, it adds huge responsibilities on the employer to ensure that their best gig workers continue to work with them even after a successful stint. And moreover, it becomes extremely critical for organisations to strike the right balance of treatment between regular and gig economy employees. It is prudent to engage with them regularly while making sure that the work environment is equal for both categories of employees.

Encouraging the concept and creating a pool of great opportunities, OYO has tried to strike a right balance for gigers by enhancing technology, creating an internal gig environment by giving freedom to choose and lastly, by providing the right blend of culture for gig-non-gig, making a seamless integration in the workforce.

The 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report sounds a wake-up call for organisations. The report states that the reality of a social enterprise demands a fundamental pivot in how organisations do business today and how they prepare for the human capital challenges of the future. Gen-Z, the next generation of the employable population that will soon be around – 472 million of the 1.3 billion Indians is another major force that would drive changes in the employer-employee relation particularly with respect to gig work.


Dinesh Ramamurthi,


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